March 11, 2017
Print-on-demand printing, or POD, is a technology that allows publishers and individuals to have books printed one-at-a-time, instead of doing a whole print run of hundreds or thousands of copies at a time. The per-unit cost is higher, but there can be a savings in not having to deal with warehousing a large inventory or dealing with remainders. POD has ushered in a new era of self-publishing, so many people associate it with self-published books exclusively. It has also allowed small companies to make money by printing a large catalog of out-of-copyright classics from Project Gutenberg. I noticed recently that some catalogers on the AUTOCAT list used the term POD interchangeably with this kind of publishing, which I knew to be a misunderstanding of how the technology is currently used in the publishing industry. I think it is important for librarians to understand how POD is being used, for reasons that I will get into, so I decided to do a study to test librarians’ knowledge of POD. I designed a survey to find out what librarians think about POD, how knowledge that a book is POD would affect their treatment of books that are printed this way, and how they believe they can tell if a book is POD when they encounter it. I ran the survey and have some results that I will share here. It was an informal survey, and I am not using the kind of statistical techniques that you would find in an academic journal article, but I think the implications of the study turned out to be very clear nevertheless. In this report, I will say a bit about my methods and share some numbers.
First, some facts about POD in today’s publishing industry:
– Traditional publishers are now using POD publishing to maintain a large backlist, to economically publish academic titles that are expected to have low sales figures, and to deal with sudden spikes in demand.
– Inks, paper, and binding have improved to the point where POD paperbacks are superior in quality to paperbacks printed traditionally a few decades ago, and are not easily discernable from traditionally-printed books by their physical attributes.
– Since traditional publishers are using POD, POD books are often professionally designed and edited. The printing method doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the content of the book.
– POD books are not necessarily hard to catalog, if they come from a traditional publisher. Catalog records are readily available, often from the Library of Congress’ CIP program. Although the CIP program is not intended for POD books, some publishers ignore this, and many academic publishers will do an initial print run and switch to POD when demand has subsided, without calling it a new edition.
– Ordering systems such as GOBI, Title Source 360, and Oasis often do not show any indication that a book is POD. To be sure of this, I tested three titles I know to be POD, one from the University of Georgia Press and two from Library Juice Press. In all three ordering systems, the University of Georgia Press title was not identified as POD. In the case of the two Library Juice Press titles, one title was indicated as POD in one of the three ordering systems but not the other two, and one title was missing from one of the ordering systems and not identified as POD in the other two. (The ISBNs for these titles are 978-0-8203-3891-0, 978-1-63400-021-5, and 978-1-936117-01-7.)
I had a conversation with the director of the University of Georgia Press, Lisa Bayer, about their use of POD publishing. Lisa had the following to say about POD:
“Most if not all university presses are using POD for their monographs and trade paperbacks. It’s very widespread and allows us to manage our inventory investment. We use the POD programs at Lightning Source (Ingram), Baker & Taylor, and Amazon… We certainly don’t do our illustrated art books or jacketed hardcovers in POD. It’s best for paperbacks and printed case library editions. The quality has improved tremendously in the past few years. I’m not aware of vendors designating POD editions; one of the benefits of putting a title into the system is that it is always ‘available.'”
As I mentioned, I noticed that in discussions on the AUTOCAT list some librarians did not seem to be aware of these facts, and as you will see from the numbers, my survey bore out this impression. Some details on the survey:
I asked five questions; two were demographic and three were designed to gauge librarians knowledge and opinions about POD, as well as their ideas about how to identify POD titles. The demographic questions were to find out what kind of a library the respondent was from and what kind of position they held in their libraries. The other questions asked for some words they associated with POD, how knowledge that a book is POD would affect their treatment of it in their jobs, and how they know a book is POD if they think they know that it is. The questions that asked for words that they associate with POD and how POD status would affect their treatment of a book revealed value judgments, while the question about how they know if a book is POD revealed whether they were knowledgable about POD or clearly held misconceptions.
Since this was an informal study that did not pretend to have the rigor of scholarly research, I went ahead and coded these responses myself, without worrying about such issues as intercoder reliability and the like. A future study on this could use more rigorous methods.
In total, there were 408 responses. 27 respondents stated that they did not have knowledge of POD and couldn’t answer the questions. 37 gave responses that were too difficult to understand to use in the study. 32 respondents understood the notion of POD in a different way, interpreting it as a service offered by the library. While not incorrect, that is a different understanding of the term POD than I was intending to study, so I disregarded those responses. So, of the 408 responses, 312 were from people who had clear ideas about POD (whether or not they gave opinions about it). Of those 312 people, 271 showed in their answers that they held mistaken ideas about POD and how it is used in the industry, while 40 understood POD more or less correctly. That means that 87% of librarians surveyed have incorrect ideas about POD. That is a strong result, and somewhat disturbing, as it has implications, in some cases, for how librarians do their jobs.
I also coded responses to see whether respondents viewed POD positively, negatively, or neutrally. Of the 312 otherwise usable responses, for 40 of them I couldn’t really tell how they felt about POD, leaving 272 usable responses. Of 272 usable responses to these questions, 198 librarians viewed POD negatively (73%), 12 viewed it positively (4%), and 62 viewed it neutrally (23%). I counted responses as neutral if they indicated that a book’s status as POD would not affect their treatment of it in the context of their work.
In terms of comparing librarians in different settings, the demographic questions didn’t reveal much. The data on the work role of the respondents was not usable, because such a high number of librarians worked in more than one role, and the combination of roles didn’t follow a strong pattern. The data on type of library showed that the majority of respondents were in academic libraries. A comparison across library types showed no real difference as far as their understanding. Of the 408 responses, 234 were from academic libraries (170 usable); 103 were from public libraries (86 usable) and 64 (55 usable) were from a mix of other types of libraries and institutions (school, corporate, government, non-profit, consortia, vendors, and LIS programs). This is good for the study, from my point of view, because it is primarily in academic publishing where traditional publishers are using POD.
So the data from this survey show that librarians mostly have an inaccurate understanding of POD, as well as viewing it negatively in a way that affects their treatment of POD books in their job roles. Let’s look a little more closely at the responses themselves to see what we can learn, since the questions were open-ended. Bearing out my initial impression from discussions on the AUTOCAT list, most librarians associate POD books with self-publishing and reprints of out-of-copyright works, and they also think that the signs indicating that a book is self-published or a reprint are what tell them that a book is POD. Common reasons given for identifying a book as POD were ugly covers, poor layout, poor editing, no ISBN, no catalog records available, known self-publishing imprints like CreateSpace, Authorhouse or iUniverse, and a lack of publishing dates. Many librarians who gave this type of response said that they could “always tell” when a book was POD. So that raises the question, aren’t they effectively just biased against self-published books and reprints? If they don’t recognize a traditionally-published book as POD when it crosses their desk, what difference does it make if they have a negative view of POD? I think the answer is that it is not impossible to know that a book is POD even if it is of high quality and easy to catalog. As several respondents pointed out, most POD books have printing on the back page with some arcane data:
Some catalogers and others look for that tell-tale information and may draw conclusions from it about the book as a whole. Also, although ordering systems may not usually give an indication that an academic title is POD when it is, sometimes they do give that indication. Some librarians in an acquisitions role, as they stated in their responses, will avoid purchasing a book on that basis. This means that librarians’ decisions are sometimes affected by a bias against POD that is not borne out by the facts about POD.
For those interested in the raw data from my survey, you can look at it here
I’d like to make a final note of full disclosure. I am personally interested in this issue because I am a former librarian who owns a book publishing company that uses print-on-demand printing. We primarily publish library science titles, so I view our customers as my colleagues as well. It bothers me that many librarians would have a bias against our titles if they knew about how we print them. We use POD because in our field sales volumes are typically low. I decided to go with POD when I formed my company after extensive conversations with a head of another publishing company that publishes a lot of LIS titles. In those conversations I gleaned important and useful information about the publishing business, and I learned that most publishers in the LIS field are using POD, for the same reason I decided to – being in a small, niche market. Because of the stigma attached to POD, however, publishers typically don’t reveal this fact. I hope that with this report I can do a little bit to de-stigmatize this common method of printing books.
January 7, 2017
Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation
Presenter: Alison M. Lewis, Chief Acquisitions Editor for Library Juice Press
This free webinar will provide an overview of the processes involved in having a book published with Library Juice Press. Topics covered will include types of books we publish, submitting a proposal, working with your editor, creating a quality manuscript, and an overview and timeline of the publishing process. The intended audience is anyone curious about our publishing process, particularly those who are potentially interested in submitting a book proposal to us. Authors and editors who currently have a book contract with us may also wish to attend. The presentation will last approximately 45 minutes, with 10-15 minutes for questions afterwards.
February 1st, 12 noon EST. One hour duration.
No prior registration is necessary. Just go here at the meeting time:
December 19, 2016
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Stuart Lawson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 2016-12-19 7:56 GMT-03:00
Subject: [RLC-DISCUSS] Journal of Radical Librarianship: call for editors
The Journal of Radical Librarianship has now been running for over two years. The number of articles we’ve published has been small, but a couple of research articles have been published this year – Jennifer Soutter’s ‘The Core Competencies for 21st Century CARL (Canadian Association of Research Libraries) Librarians: through a neoliberal lens’, and Ian Clark’s ‘The digital divide in the post-Snowden era’ – and more are in the pipeline.
Since it’s been a while since we started the journal, the current editors have decided it’s time to make an explicit call for other people to get involved as well if they wish. The initial editorial group has worked well but it was formed by whoever who willing and able at the time, and it was never intended to be static. Two people have recently stepped down as editors so it would be a good time for anyone who is interested in joining to come on board.
The journal can publish articles across a wide range of subject areas. The ones we have designated to specific editors at the moment are listed on the website (https://journal.radicallibrarianship.org/index.php/journal/about) but this is by no means exhaustive and we would welcome anyone with expertise in an area they feel is not represented – or to volunteer to share editorial responsibilities for an area that is listed.
‘Editorial responsibilities’ essentially means guiding research and theory articles through peer review. Feel free to ask me anything about the process off-list if you like. In addition, please let us know if you’d be happy to lend your time as a peer reviewer.
Stuart (on behalf of the editors)
April 30, 2016
In the early 2000s, as Amazon was emerging as a major player in the book world, I understood them as the faceless evil that was killing off the independent bookstore, which by contrast represented (along with libraries) the individuality of human understanding, the knowledge of literature, independence of spirit, and the flickering candle of enlightenment; in short, everything that was good. Publishing was said to need independent bookstores to survive. It was good to be motivated by such a drama.
Considering this context, you can imagine how surprised I was to discover, as a new participant in the world of alternative press publishing in 2006, that Amazon would be our best outlet for books, and independent bookstores, with a few exceptions (most notably Bluestockings in New York) would be almost impossible to work with.
Let me explain by sharing some facts about the book trade and how our press fits into it.
The book trade has different segments; the ones we’re concerned with here are trade publishing and scholarly and professional publishing. Trade publishing is what most people think of when they think of the book trade. It’s the books that you find in bookstores and the public library, that authors talk about in radio interviews, and that get reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. To make money in trade publishing, publishers do a lot of advertising and marketing to achieve high sales figures, and compete on price. Profit margins are small, and publishers depend on big hits in order to be profitable. Bookstore sales are essential, and books reach bookstores through distributors. In order to make their money in all of this, bookstores expect a certain discount, and the distributors expect a cut as well. Bookstores also expect distributors to accept returns of all unsold copies. Typically, bookstores take a 45% cut of the retail price, with distributors taking an additional 15%. With the competition on price, that leaves just a sliver for the publisher on each copy sold. If that sliver is extended to 200,000 copies sold, it is significant money, making trade publishing a big business.
Scholarly and professional publishers, on the other hand, do not sell in high volumes. The market is mainly academic libraries, and in some cases university bookstores. A typical scholarly book that is sold to research libraries will sell 200 copies. As a rule of thumb, sales of 500 are necessary for a book to be profitable, and that is not always reached. Consequently, cover prices are much higher. Also, since this part of the industry doesn’t need to support brick and mortar outlets, vendors to libraries are willing to take a much smaller cut, generally 20 to 25% of the retail price. University bookstores have a captive audience and are willing to accept these kinds of discounts as well. And although they usually expect to be able to return unsold copies, they accept it when they can’t.
Enter Amazon. You have probably read about Amazon’s battles with major publishing conglomerates over pricing and discounts, and these stories make them appear to be the enemy of the publishing industry, squeezing profits and making things generally difficult (even as they give these publishers much of their sales). But that is a story about the trade segment of the industry. At the same time, Amazon gets a lot of its power though being a place where you can buy just about any book, including books coming from scholarly and professional publishing houses. In that market, Amazon participates according to the prevailing terms, meaning they accept a 25% discount and are okay with not being able to return unsold copies.
Library Juice Press and Litwin Books, being niche publishing imprints in scholarly and professional fields, have a business model that is based on low sales volume, small discounts, and generally a lack of interest from bookstores, which have a more general readership. On those rare occasions when an independent bookstore is interested in our books, usually to meet an individual customer’s request, they are likely unwilling to accept our terms, and there is no sale. “What should I tell the customer?” they sometimes ask. “They can buy it on Amazon.”
The implications of this state of affairs might be a bit sad, because independent bookstores are a unique sort of institution that represents important values. Independent booksellers actually know what they are selling, have read the books, have had the authors visit to read from them. They are knowledgable about books and literature and impart that knowledge to their book-loving clientele. Amazon, of course, is a powerful machine with no heart and no soul and no human understanding. At any rate, that is one way to think about it.
I would like to propose another way of thinking about the ecology of books and reading of which Amazon is a part. What independent bookstores offer, and represent, is connection to the readers in a local community. Communities now, however, can be geographically dispersed and bound together by shared interests, niche interests like library studies. A local community may have only a couple of people with those interests, not enough for the local bookstore to serve them profitably. Librarians who buy our books may find their local communities very important; they may buy locally, they may want their foods to be grown within a 50 mile radius, they may cultivate relationships in their neighborhoods, and they may patronize their local independent bookstores for that reason. But they continue to participate in geographically dispersed communities based on niche interests. Their love of what is local is generally not inspiring them to get rid of their internet connections. And if they want books related to their niche interests, Amazon is the soulless machine that serves them. It is the logistical source for buying books. Part of the function of an independent bookstore in this equation, however, is not logistical but knowledgable. That factor is replaced by another participant, one in which a lot of soul is present – the niche network of knowledgable people linked by social media. Where the independent bookseller helps customers find the right book, niche customers using Amazon already know what they want when they go to the site, because they have found out about it from peers, mentors, and mavens. So, independent bookstores are not being replaced only by Amazon in that context, but by soulful people as well, albeit ones who don’t get to talk face-to-face all that often. We are happy to let Amazon be their source because we exist in a geographically-dispersed niche that local independent bookstores are not a natural part of.
So that is where we stand.
There have been occasions, however, when we have produced a book that has a potential wider interest, like Chris Roth’s fantastic book on secessionist movements around the world. These experiences have been frustrating, because our position as a scholarly and professional publisher makes it impossible to give those books the marketing they deserve. Chris’s book in particular is one that people really want when they get a chance to see and touch it, so not having a good avenue to get it into bookstores has been a real hindrance to sales. Since that book is outside the niche network that we are connected to as a publisher, social media is less effective for us in marketing it. Distributors generally want the exclusive right to sell all the books in a given ISBN range, so we can’t give them just the one book to work with. Consequently, I feel pain over not being able to generate the sales that Chris’s book deserves. I feel good about bringing the book to publication (we developed the idea for it together), but in the future I will probably avoid getting involved in projects that really belong in the trade book marketplace. The idea of entering the cut-throat trade publishing market in earnest is not appealing.
If you have been reluctant to buy our books on Amazon, I hope what I’ve said might change your mind. If not, feel free to hate on Amazon and request our books at your library through inter-library loan. (Although that means one fewer sale, we feel that supporting libraries supports us by extension.)
February 21, 2016
Hi…. This is a follow-up to my December 15 post, “A note on our copyright statements.” I want to follow up because there was a comment that was critical of our copyright policies, apparently reading a few things into what I said that weren’t true. I responded to the comment but I wanted to make the clarification here.
The basic point of the earlier post was that a simple copyright statement on the copyright page of a book, e.g. “Copyright 2017 Wayne Bivens-Tatum,” or “Copyright 2015 respective authors” can be misleading about who actually has the publication rights. That’s because a publishing agreement often gives an exclusive right to the publisher, usually for a limited time. I wrote that post in a style that was maybe a little bit officious and legalistic, but copyright is about rules that can be a bit technical. It was this tone, I think, that gave the commenter the impression that we are highly proprietary about rights and not friendly enough to open access publishing. She asked why we don’t use a Creative Commons license, why the prices are so high for our books, why aren’t our books open access after an embargo period, and why don’t we use a contract that allows authors to use their work for whatever purposes they want. I addressed her questions in a response to her comment. I’ll put my answers here and say a bit more as well.
First, I want to say a bit about what is typically in our contracts with authors. The contracts differ between the authors or editors of a book and contributors of chapters to an edited volume. Contributors of chapters to an edited volume have always had an immediate right to put their work in an institutional repository, which qualifies us as open access to an extent. In addition, for the past few years our contracts with contributors have been “non-exclusive,” which means that in fact they can do whatever they want with their chapters right away and forever. They can put them on a website or whatever they want. We’re not too worried about this competing with book sales, since it distributes access to the contents through all of the different contributors and the different methods they want to use. The way we look at it, it would not be easy or necessarily possible to pull together the whole book for free, even though authors could get together to do that if they wanted (though that we not be very fair to us).
Authors of books or editors of collections get a different kind of contract that gives them less rights at first. They don’t sign over their copyright, but they give us a temporary exclusive right to publish their work, whether it’s a whole book or the editor’s contribution to a collection (introduction, arrangement, etc.). After maybe five years, our exclusive right automatically renews unless the authors ask for it not to. At that point they can have the right to renegotiate, to take it to another publisher, to make it freely available on a website, or whatever they want to do.
Since our rights are always limited, we don’t have the right to make someone else’s work open access or put it on a Creative Commons license, nor would it make sense financially. First, about not having the rights to do it. That is something that could theoretically be negotiated with an author, meaning that if it was okay with them we could write a contract that did that. I just want to point out that since we are not the owners of the copyright, we don’t have the right to make somebody else’s work open access. That would be on them, and they could still give us a non-exclusive right to publish it and hope to break even. But break even we at least hope to do, and contrary to what you may have read, making a book free does not increase sales. And we have to sell books to break even, and also to pay authors royalties, which they are interested in. Book authors and editors typically get 15% of sales. (Contributors of chapters get a free copy of the book, in addition to maintaining the rights to their work.)
So if open access publishing is not feasible for us as a book publisher, how can it exist? It does exist – there are plenty of open access publishers out there. Most of them are journal publishers, but some university presses are beginning to experiment with open access book publishing. What you may not know about this kind of thing is that it’s financed by charging authors to publish their work. The author of a journal article is typically charged $500 to $1000 to have her article published, even in a highly reputable journal. A book can cost an author easily $7500 for a university press to publish it open access. We don’t want to do that. Sometimes there is grant funding to pay these fees, and sometimes it comes out of a scholar’s own pockets. We really don’t want to do that, so open access publishing or Creative Commons publishing is not an option for us, not as long as we hope to break even.
Finally, a note about our book pricing. The commenter said our prices are high, and I responded that they are typically about half of what other LIS publishers charge. We have a philosophy of trying to make our books affordable so that people and not just libraries can buy them. But given the small quantities published, there’s no way we can compete with the low pricing of the giant trade publishers. It is all about breaking even. (Click the book covers on the right to see what our prices are like.) So I am confident that our prices are good given the overall market for LIS books.
In a typical year, we do just a little better than break even from selling books. And that is without paying us a salary, so in a sense it is all subsidized with our labor. Our online classes are more profitable, but I think that is not so much of an issue.
I hope that our policies, and our transparency, show that we are still an ethical publisher.
Ramsey Kanaan of AK Press and PM Press talked to Derrick Jensen on Resistance Radio again. (You can listen to a previous interview from August 16, 2015.)
Resistance Radio introduces him thusly:
Ramsey Kanaan has been involved in attempting to disseminate the good word for well over three and a half decades now. As a young teenager, he founded AK Press (named after his mothers initials) from his bedroom in Scotland. Hes co-founder and Publisher with PM Press. You can check out his current efforts at www.pmpress.org. Today we talk about the collapse of the book industry, and the implications for social change.
Don’t worry about the animal sounds at the beginning of the program. That’s how Jensen introduces his shows, instead of using theme music.
August 23, 2015
Derrick Jensen’s Resistance Radio interview with Ramsey Kanaan…
Ramsey Kanaan has been involved in attempting to disseminate the good word for well over three and a half decades now. As a young teenager, he founded AK Press (named after his mothers initials) from his bedroom in Scotland. He’s co-founder and Publisher with PM Press. You can check out his current efforts at www.pmpress.org. We talk about the importance of independent publishing to social change.
(Note: the funny sounds at the start of the podcast are the sounds of a badger. Each week Derrick Jensen uses different wildlife sounds at the start of his show.)
January 8, 2015
From the website:
During the closing meeting of the International Assembly of Independent Publishers (Cape Town, South Africa, 18-21 September 2014), 400 independent publishers from 45 countries signed the International Declaration of Independent Publishers 2014.
Collectively drafted in three languages, on 20 September 2014, the Declaration 2014 is available in several languages (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Farsi, Italian, etc.).
Read the declaration (PDF)
December 6, 2014
Inland Editions is a new publisher out of London that is particularly interested in libraries. They are preparing to publish their first book, which appears to be a beautifully designed art book primarily about library architecture. It’s called Bookspace, and they are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production. That seems a little bit hinky to me if they are a commercial publisher, but okay, they need capital because it appears to be a book that will be expensive to produce. The expected publication date is February 2015, coming right up. Inland Editions also has a blog that focuses on libraries and is quite different from the usual library-related fare, as they are not librarians but artists and intellectuals of various stripes.
November 21, 2014
“To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.”
November 12, 2014
The French Government has declared books an “essential good.” Daniel Mendelsohn and Mohsin Hamid in the NYT yesterday explore the idea of doing the same thing in the U.S. Here is a brief excerpt:
Whatever the cultural reasons, books in France are indeed an “essential good” — the designation coined by the French government that served to justify the very concrete steps it has taken over the years to protect its precious literary culture. The most prominent of these are laws outlawing the advantages (deep discounting combined with free shipping) that big chains and Amazon enjoy over independent booksellers in the United States and other countries. These help explain a phenomenon that inevitably strikes American visitors to France today: As even big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble have faltered here, every block in central Paris seems to sprout at least two small, intelligently stocked bookshops.
September 24, 2014
Sharing the TOC of a journal I find very useful as a publisher. I think it also has a lot that would be of interest to academic librarians who do collection development.
Journal of Scholarly Publishing
Volume 46, Number 1
This Issue Includes:
University Press Forum 2014
Choice’s Compilation of Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates, 2013-2014
Monographic Purchasing Trends in Academic Libraries:
Elisabeth A. Jones and Paul N. Courant
This article describes an exploratory study examining one contentious aspect of the relationship between university presses and academic libraries: the trends in purchases of university press books by academic libraries. The study provides an empirical basis for evaluating the frequent claim that the declining fortunes of university presses can be blamed primarily on declines in monographic purchasing by academic libraries. Our analysis indicates that this relationship is not clear-cut for at least three reasons: first, to the extent that purchasing reductions have occurred, they have occurred much more recently than many accounts have suggested; second, purchasing trends vary significantly between different sizes of libraries; and third, purchasing trends for university press books are very different from those for monographs in general. These findings cast substantial doubt on the proposition that changes in university library purchasing behaviour dating to the 1990s ‘serials crisis’ are principally responsible for the current economic malaise of university presses.
From Book Publishers to Authors:
Elea Giménez-Toledo, Sylvia Fernández-Gómez, Carlos Tejada-Artigas and Jorge Mañana-RodrÍquez
The publishing processes and standards in scholarly journals are much better known than those of the publishers of scholarly books. Since scholarly books are key channels of communication and academic assessment in the humanities and social sciences, information provided by publishers concerning their publishing processes is very important both for authors and panelists (at funding and evaluation agencies). This article focuses on the analysis of the transparency of publishers in relation to the information they offer to authors. The main objective is to identify and analyze the publishing practices of two hundred scholarly book publishers of social sciences and humanities with respect to the information that they provide on their Web sites about their publishing processes. A lack of information on these Web sites is the main finding of the study. Among Spanish publishers, only 11.2 per cent explicitly state that they have a review system by experts. At the international level, the situation improves, but the shortcomings are still evident. Some guidelines for publishers are outlined and proposed.
How to Be an Effective Peer Reviewer:
Stephen K. Donovan
Peer review is an essential component of modern academic publishing, but it is a task that is commonly learnt by trial and error rather than a published set of rules or principals. To review a research paper requires a close knowledge of the subject area, but contrasting reviews by a generalist and an expert in the field may provide a better appreciation of a paper’s merits to an editor than those of two experts. Reviews are there for the edification and information of the editor and to be passed on to the author; do your best to provide a constructive response.
Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis, A Scholar’s Guide to Getting Published in English: Critical Choices and Practical Strategies, reviewed by Steven E. Gump
Laura N. Gasaway, Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain, reviewed by Sanford G. Thatcher
March 5, 2014
Just very quickly noting a great article in the New Yorker recently, by George Packer: Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?
The article covers the history of Amazon as a firm and the complexities of their relations with the publishing industry. Good reading if you’re interested in what is happening in the book world.
December 2, 2013
André Schiffrin, Publishing Force and a Founder of New Press, Is Dead at 78 (New York Times obituary).
I will take this as yet another occasion to recommend his very good book on the publishing industry, which he wrote in the 90s in part as a memoir, The Business of Books. He was an influence on more than just one generation of people in the book world.
November 8, 2013
An Against the Grain Podcast with Alycia Sellie, published 11/05/2013
Libraries and the Alternative Press
Unique and vital perspectives are and have been offered up by underground newspapers, zines, and other radical publications. But alternative materials are for the most part not carried by libraries. Alycia Sellie comments on the value of alternative publications and describes behind-the-scenes efforts, by her and other activist librarians, to get them into library collections.
Libraries and the Alternative Press was a big priority topic for Library Juice in years past, and an activity of mine within ALA/SRRT’s Alternative Media Task Force, formerly the Alternatives in Print Task Force. It is now inactive, but could be revived if anyone wants to take it on. Contact someone in SRRT if you feel inspired to do that.